Getting Around Belarus
Belavia (www.belavia.by) provides domestic flights to all major cities in Belarus including Brest and Vitebsk. Beware of using local airlines, which may have questionable safety standards.
Belarus’ main highways are halfway decent, but other roads in the country are often hazardous, poorly maintained and thus heavily potholed. It’s possible to find fuel in major cities but elsewhere filling up your tank can be more unpredictable. In rural areas beware of pony and trap drivers. There are police checkpoints on all the main routes to and from Minsk.
Belarus has an electronic toll system, which requires drivers to collect an OBU (on board unit) when crossing the border, and top this up with funds as you drive on the country’s toll roads. A fine is imposed on drivers who do not have an OBU in the vehicle.
There is also a fee for drivers of foreign vehicles wishing to use Belarus' highways. Payments are collected at border checkpoints and vary according to the length of stay (and often the value of your vehicle).
Side of the roadRight
Many of the minor roads are impassable during the winter months due to potholes and poor maintenance.
This is available from all major hotels in the capital Minsk. Hertz (www.hertz.co.uk) Europcar (www.europcar.co.uk) and Avis (www.avis.co.uk) are all available at the International airport in Minsk. Prices are similar to the rest of Europe. It should be remembered when planning to hire a car in Belarus that not unlike neighbouring Russia, driving is not always relaxing, and safety standards are not on a par with Western Europe yet.
These are numerous and inexpensive. Official taxis in Minsk are usually Russian-made Volga sedans, yellow in colour with black and white squares, although this isn’t always the case. It's best to arrange a price before your journey whether the taxi is metered or not. It is possible to order a taxi by calling 007.
Belarus is not particularly cycle friendly. You may see the occasional local in the countryside on a bike, but not many. Roads in Belarus are not the safest places.
Coach travel within Belarus can be slow due to road conditions.
The speed limit is 60kph (37mph) in built-up areas, 90kph (55mph) outside built up areas and 100kph (62mph) on motorways (Brest-Moscow). Motorists who have held a driving licence for under two years must not exceed 70kph (43mph). Vehicles should have lights on at all times from 1 November to 31 March. All vehicles should be equipped with a first-aid kit, fire extinguisher, warning triangle, winter tyres (between November and March) and OBU.
It’s possible to drive using your national driving licence, but often an International Driving Permit is preferred. When travelling by private vehicle, travellers must be able to produce ownership documents or a letter of 'power of attorney' at customs offices at border crossings; only originals will be accepted. Travellers must have third-party car insurance – this can be bought when entering Belarus. Drivers should stop when instructed, and have the vehicle documentation ready, otherwise face a fine and delay.
Public transport through Minsk is cheap and efficient. Minsk has an underground metro system with two lines that cover central Minsk, with plans for further expansion with a third line. Trains run between 0530 and 0100, buses, trams and trolleybuses run from 0535-0030. You can buy tickets for buses, trams and trolleybuses at newsstands or kiosks and you must punch them on board. Entry to the underground is by tokens which are obtainable from stations.
Services run regularly from Minsk to all other towns. For more information, contact Belarus Railways (www.rw.by). Keep an eye out for your luggage; numerous cases of theft on trains have been reported.